One of the fun summer visitors to the Harkers Island area is the ladyfish. These slender fish have as much fight per ounce than any other fish, running hard, jumping often and iving a much better representation of themselves than their slight frames would indicate. Capt. Noah Lynk of Noah’s Ark Fishing Charters is a fan of ladyfish and looks forward to their annual arrival.
“We don’t have any other fish in our inshore waters that fights like ladyfish,” Lynk said. “They give you everything they’ve got every time. Most run from less than a pound to about two and fight like they weigh 10. We see a few 3- to 4- pounders, and they really make you work. I caught a 5-pounder a few weeks ago, and it destroyed a name-brand reel. The drag was burned out, and at least one bearing had issues. It had to be completely rebuilt.”
Lynk (252-342-6911) said he occasionally finds a ladyfish or two during the daytime, but the real action is at night. They are very active at night and are often around lighted docks and bridges; his favorite spot is the Harkers Island Bridge.
On a recent trip, the ladies were there and waiting. It wasn’t quite dark when he arrived, but the ladyfish were already feeding aggressively. Lynk pointed out their gulps and splashes as he secured the boat.
“Man, this should be a good night,” Lynk said. “This is the first time this year I’ve seen them this fired up, and it isn’t even dark yet. They really feed hard after dark.”
Lynk flipped a 3-inch Salty Bay shrimp about 10 yards and was hooked up immediately. A 20-inch ladyfish was instantaneously in the air, doing flips and tumbles trying to dislodge the hook. Next, it streaked downcurrent and made Lynk’s little reel whine in pain as it took line wholesale. It took him a handful of minutes to tire the fish enough to lead it to the boat, and it still hadn’t totally surrendered. Once out of the water, it went ballistic again as Lynk tried to carefully grab it to remove the hook.
The next bait received the same treatment, except it may have lasted five seconds before being attacked. Once again, the growing darkness was broken by splashes as the hooked ladyfish jumped wildly. The little bit of light from the bridge flashed off its scales on every jump.
There is an unusual feeling being on the water at night that heightens your senses. When you add the voracious attacks and wild gyrations of ladyfish, it becomes an adventure that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Many fishermen make references to ladyfish as “little tarpon” or “poor man’s tarpon”